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Don't Like Bush? Lose Government Contract

A vendor who voiced criticisms of Bush lost a lucrative government contract. And that's just the latest procurement scandal to surface on Bush's watch.
 
 
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Last month, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso Jackson told a minority business group in Texas that he had retracted a HUD contract after learning it had been awarded to a qualified vendor who happened to be critical of the Bush administration.

"He had made every effort to get a contract with HUD for 10 years," Jackson said, according to the Dallas Business Journal. "He made a heck of a proposal … so we selected him." Later, Jackson recounted, "he came to see me and thank me for selecting him. Then he said … 'I have a problem with your president.'"

Apparently, that's all it takes to make the Bush administration's enemy's list. The contract was retracted. "Why should I reward someone who doesn't like the president?" Jackson said.

Rewarding one's political allies is nothing new in Washington, but it is illegal to discriminate based on politics. Admitting such an act to a crowd -- with reporters present -- shows how deeply ingrained the Republicans' sense of entitlement is. As blogger Duncan Black commented, "Jackson boasted that he ran HUD like the worst of city patronage machines."

Reps. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., and Barney Frank, D-Mass., called for an investigation into Jackson, and Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., asked for his resignation. Now Jackson is backpedaling furiously; according to ThinkProgress, the secretary's press flack first confirmed the story and said that Jackson had been referring to "an advertising contract with a minority publication." Later, that same spokesperson denied the story altogether, saying that Jackson had made the whole thing up.

Jackson's office is already taking heat for awarding a recent HUD contract to Shirlington Limousine, the shady company that defense contractor Brent Wilkes --embroiled in the Duke Cunningham case -- used to "transport congressmen, CIA officials and perhaps prostitutes to his Washington parties," according to Harpers. ThinkProgress reports that Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., has requested copies of all records pertaining to the contract and may push for an investigation.

Jackson, a former president of the Austin-based American Electric Power Co., is another in a long line of Bush cronies. Then-Governor Bush first appointed Jackson to the Texas Southern University Board of Regents. He joined HUD in 2001 as deputy secretary and got the top job months after the San Francisco Chronicle reported that Jackson had fired a HUD whistleblower, Richard Mallory, who had gone public with his accusations of "a 'coverup' of fiscal improprieties that was allegedly engineered by a powerful Republican official in Washington, D.C."

There's a pattern here; Mallory replaced another senior HUD official, John Phillips, who was himself demoted "after he complained that his agency was being lax on corruption and mismanagement in the San Francisco Housing Authority," according to the San Francisco Chronicle . Phillips had criticized the agency in a letter to then-Deputy Secretary Alphonso Jackson.

Jackson is also a Bush "pioneer" who raised over $100,000 for President Bush's election in 2000. That year, according to Public Citizen, "The Republican Party named Jackson as assistant secretary of the 2000 Republican National Convention, so this African-American could help it project an image of diversity."

During the 2004 cycle, Jackson penned an op-ed in USA Today attacking John Kerry for suggesting that the GOP might suppress the black vote, and Democrats and mainstream black leaders for building "their careers on an ideology of black victimization."

This story comes on the heels of a series of high-level procurement scandals that have surfaced on Bush's watch. In 2003, Richard Perle resigned his appointment at the Defense Policy Board amid allegations of conflict of interest (Seymour Hersh reported that Perle stood to gain financially from the policies he was advocating).

In 2004, Darleen Druyun, a top Air Force procurement officer pled guilty of fraud and was sentenced to nine months in prison for her work pushing billions of dollars to Boeing for a project that turned into a complete boondoggle. She later took a senior position at the company. In 2005, the Village Voice reported that the scandal reached all the way up to James Roche, a former executive with Northrup Grumman who Bush appointed as Air Force secretary in 2001.

Last October, the White House's senior procurement officer, David Safavian, was indicted and led away in handcuffs for making false statements and obstructing an investigation into the White House's ties to the Jack Abramoff scandal.

Former member of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Duke Cunningham pled guilty to bribery charges in November. Also in November, a procurement official in Iraq -- an official who had a criminal record of fraud when he was appointed -- was charged with accepting bribes from an American contractor. In April, the contractor, Phillip Bloom, pled guilty to the charge. Recently, Kyle Foggo, the No. 3 man at the CIA resigned under a cloud of suspicion into his involvement in the Cunningham scandal. An investigation is underway into further contracting questions at both the CIA and the Department of Homeland Security, according to the New York Times .

In Bushworld, friends are lavishly rewarded and critics are crushed without mercy. Apparently, the president's promise to "clean up the toxic environment in Washington, D.C." has yet to be fulfilled.

Joshua Holland is an AlterNet staff writer.